(Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original version, to reflect that racing that had been scheduled Saturday night was canceled.)
The Meadowlands Racetrack was scheduled to be home to an unusual “two-fer” on Saturday, with Breeders Crown races by day on the dirt and thoroughbred racing on the turf at night.
The latter racing — which was rained out — would have served as the final card of the year for the t-breds, who were slated to be part of seven “Monmouth-at-Meadowlands” evening programs in East Rutherford in October. The Breeders Crown, meanwhile, returned to the Big M for the first time in five years.
Sports wagering on the eight Breeders Crown Finals totaled a minimum of $316,162 per race. The largest single-race handle was the $457,657 wagered on what proved to be a dramatic showdown between Perfect Sting and Charlie May in the 3-year-old colts and geldings pace.
Total wagering on the eight Crown races was $2,972,101, an average of $371,512 per contest, while total betting on the 13-race card was a robust $4.1 million.
The last Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands in 2016 produced a Friday night/Saturday night handle of $6.4 million. This Friday night/Saturday afternoon combination netted $7.4 million in handle, with pleasant fall weather on Saturday no doubt boosting the on-track handle.
Track owner Gural fulfills a wish
While achieving great success as a New York City real estate mogul, Meadowlands Racetrack owner-operator Jeff Gural has had a love of horse racing in his blood since he was a teenager growing up on Long Island.
But the 78-year-old Gural, for all of the horses he has owned over the years, never had a Breeders Crown winner — until Saturday.
“I’ve come close but this is the first one I’ve ever won,” Gural told Harness Racing Update. “And it’s funny, because I told [assistant trainer] Sarah Svanstedt that I was going to bring the Breeders Crown to The Meadowlands so they could win one, because they’ve never won one at all these other tracks and they were so excited and they’re doing great.”
Pacing mare Rocknificent produced the milestone for Gural and co-owner Dan Baer of South Mountain Stables.
Congratulations to #harnessracing's newest millionaire Rocknificent, who defeated the top ranked horse in the sport with a solid gate-to-wire performance in the 2021 @Breeders_Crown for older pacing mares on Saturday (Oct. 30) at @TheMeadowlands » https://t.co/iuZwqAcP5a #Crown21 pic.twitter.com/A3U6I50Cw7
— Trot Insider (@trotinsider) October 30, 2021
“We bought Rocknificent at the Lexington sale, and Jeff has been buying into horses with me for some time,’” said Baer. “And I called Jeff up and said, ‘Jeff, what do you think?’ and I remember this, he said, ‘She really is well-bred. Okay, I’ll take a quarter.’
“Jeff and I buy several horses together… I’m so happy for Jeff today because this is his first Breeders Crown. I’m just so happy for him. It’s my first Breeders Crown as well, but he’s been in racing so long and he is an icon.”
More pre-race interviews on the way
Meadowlands Racetrack officials last weekend announced that their simulcast signal will now feature bonus interview coverage with trainers and drivers to help facilitate the delivery of pertinent handicapping information to the betting public.
The interviews will be conducted by The Meadowlands’ TV talent team during the pre-race show and early in the race card, featuring drivers and trainers who have horses entered that night. The practice of conducting such interviews is not new to the simulcast signal, of course, but now there will be a more concerted effort to feature more between-race interviews than in the past.
This will include offering video interviews on The Meadowlands’ Twitter account. The decision to feature additional horsemen on the simulcast signal was the result of listening to requests from the betting public.
“Horseplayers value our track handicappers’ opinions, but that is often not enough,” said track general manager Jason Settlemoir. “Our players want the opinions of the horsemen as well, and we are going to answer their call with more television coverage.”
The additional focus on driver and trainer interviews began with The Breeders Crown. Meanwhile, harness racing continues in East Rutherford on each Friday and Saturday night in November; on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the first two December weekends; and more racing on Dec. 17-18 and Dec. 31 to wrap up the year.
Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com